Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has signed a new “long-term” contract for the Reds.
The club confirmed the news in a statement on the official website this afternoon. His previous deal was due to run out at the end of next season.
Damien Comolli, the club’s Director of Football, said the agreement had come after months of talks: “I am very, very pleased. We have been talking for a few months now, ever since I arrived at the club.
“One of the first things I did after I arrived was to look at the contract situation and to see where Lucas was at. I knew we had to do something quickly because we couldn’t afford to lose him and didn’t want to lose him.”
The 24-year-old has been at Anfield for four years and at times his young age, not to mention the distance he’d moved from home at that age, was forgotten by those individuals who seem to always need someone to grumble about. But his attitude has always been spot on and his performances mean he has become a player almost certainly guaranteed a start.
He’s racking up the appearances now, as Comolli points out: “If you look at his playing record he started 46 games last year in all competitions and this year it will be between 45 and 50.
“He is exactly what we want. He has the right mentality, quality and attitude. He understands what this club is all about and even though the discussions went on for quite a long time he always said to me ‘I want to stay and we need to find a solution’.”
Comolli described the Brazilian international as “a great professional, totally committed and dedicated and it’s always team first when you speak to Lucas.
“That’s why we wanted him to stay. The celebration at Sunderland with the players after he’d had his baby shows that the other players were very happy for him and shows he is a team player.”
Comolli hinted that there may be further announcements of new deals in the coming weeks: “This shows stability. What we did during the window [signing Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez] showed ambition and what we have done with Lucas, and other players we are talking to, shows stability. We want to keep the core of the players we have who are performing and performing well.”
One deal that fans look forward to hearing news of is the one that makes Kenny Dalglish the manager on a long-term basis, an announcement that can’t be far away now. Dalglish was “delighted” that Lucas had penned his deal: “He is a smashing lad to have around the football club but he hasn’t been signed for that, he has been signed because of what he does on the pitch. Certainly since I came in he has been a great asset to the team and has done tremendously well.”
It’s been a significant month for Lucas, in some ways a coming of age, as Kenny says: “He’s got wee Pedro [his newborn son] to look after and now a new contract as well and we’re delighted for him because he’s a really honest, genuine fella and that’s reflected in the way he plays.
“He’s happy to be here and play for the club and he’s getting everything that he deserves at the moment – including being a fixture in the Brazilian team – because of what he’s done on the pitch.”
Lucas said the club’s efforts to sign him to the new deal have made him feel he’s an important part of the squad: “For me it was an easy decision because I know how big Liverpool is and I can see they are committed to me and are planning for a future with me. The effort from the club was amazing and that makes me feel an important player.
“That’s why it was an easy decision.”
“The last few weeks have been really good for me and now I have signed a new contract and can spend more years at Liverpool I will do my best all the time and try to help the club to be bigger and bigger, if that’s possible.”
In the longer term Lucas wants what the supporters want: “Everyone wants to be in the Champions League again and to win titles. That is what Liverpool is about. The way everything is going I think it will be a very good next few seasons.
“We have some new players who have come here and that shows we are moving in the right direction. I am pleased with the way Liverpool tried to keep me and now I want to keep doing my best for them.”
And perhaps a message for the doubters: “I don’t think people thought I could stay here for so long, but now I want to just keep on improving.”
Today’s quotes are in stark contrast to those from the player at the end of August. With Roy Hodgson in charge and Meireles and Poulsen just signed there were reports linking Lucas with a move to Stoke or as part of a player exchange with West Ham for Carlton Cole.
With no denial forthcoming from Anfield Lucas was left with a somewhat uncertain future: “What is the situation? I don’t know. I’m still playing,” he said at the time. “At the moment, I haven’t had any offers. I don’t know if the club wants to sell me. I just have to wait.”
He was philosophical about the situation: “If the club want to sell me, what can I do? I just have to wait and see what will happen. I need to be playing and I want to be playing but I believe that I am doing well.”
He went on: “The manager [Hodgson] will choose who plays. I have a contract here and if I don’t get anything good for me or for the club, then I will stay.”
Seven months later and it’s not just Lucas whose future is more assured and far rosier than it was last August. Roy Hodgson is now manager of West Brom.